As Mayor Eric Garcetti’s ambassadorial nomination faces more scrutiny in the Senate, new text messages seen by The Times on Friday suggest a former spokeswoman for Garcetti may have been subject to kissing and to unwanted “pressure” by one of the mayor’s most powerful aides, and later that she didn’t speak because she didn’t want to “bring down” the mayor.
Although former spokeswoman Anna Bahr said she did not recall being sexually harassed by Rick Jacobs – a former senior Garcetti official and subject of a sexual misconduct lawsuit – she did claimed to have heard of other people being harassed. She told The Times the topic was “something everyone was talking about” in the mayor’s office.
The texts were written by Bahr and another former Garcetti aide in October 2020, said Greg Smith, attorney for LAPD officer Matthew Garza, who is suing the city over Jacobs’ alleged behavior. Smith provided the texts to The Times, which showed Bahr and Garcetti’s assistant discussing an individual named “Rick” at one point.
Bahr said she was “pretty sure” she remembered sending the messages to a colleague, but couldn’t find the message thread in her phone. Speaking publicly about Jacobs’ fury for the first time, Bahr said she did not recall the kissing and other behavior depicted in the texts.
“Although I was never sexually harassed by Rick Jacobs,” Bahr added in a follow-up text message to The Times, “I knew people who were and found him to be an abusive boss. “
Regarding comments in the texts where she allegedly said she didn’t want to ‘take down’ Garcetti, Bahr said she was dragged against her will into the fury over Jacobs’ alleged conduct raging since Garza filed her lawsuit against the city in July 2020. “I didn’t want — I don’t want — to be a part of a story that I don’t feel like a part of,” she said. declared.
Smith did not identify Garcetti’s former assistant who messaged Bahr.
Jacobs’ attorneys did not respond to a request for comment. The former mayor’s aide and confidant has said in the past that he has never sexually harassed anyone and never done anything to intentionally cause pain.
The text exchange is revealed as Garcetti seeks to travel to India. Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) announced last week that his office had launched an investigation into what Garcetti may have known about the sexual harassment allegations involving Jacobs.
Critics of Garcetti say the new posts bolster their claim that many in the mayor’s office knew about the misconduct but chose to remain silent. The texts do not deal directly with what Garcetti saw or heard.
One of the mayor’s former communications directors, Naomi Seligman, testified that she complained about Jacobs’ misconduct to Garcetti’s former chief of staff, Ana Guerrero. She said nothing was ever done about it. Guerrero denies he was ever told.
On Friday, Bahr said she spoke to Seligman and Suzi Emmerling, another Garcetti communications director, about the issues with Jacobs.
“I told them about abusive behavior towards me in general; Rick being mean and a bad boss. But we also discussed his alleged behavior regarding sexual harassment of others in the workplace,” Bahr said. The two communications office officials “did nothing” to remedy the situation, she said.
Seligman and Emmerling denied that Bahr reported sexual harassment to them. Emmerling, who worked in the mayor’s office from 2017 to 2019, also noted that Jacobs had left the mayor’s office by the time she arrived there.
In a joint statement in response to the texts, the two men added that they were “deeply saddened to learn that Anna Bahr was harassed and sexually abused in Eric Garcetti’s office, like so many others”.
Bahr acknowledged that she did not complain about Jacobs to her first supervisor, Yusef Robb. She remembers Jacobs yelling at her during this time, but Bahr assumed she stayed quiet because she was new to her job and “kept her head down.”
Garza’s lawsuit against the city accuses Jacobs of harassing him and making crude sexual comments over a period of years. Garcetti witnessed some of the behavior but did not intervene, according to Garza’s lawsuit.
Garcetti denied condoning any misconduct, saying the safety and security of workers in his office was always a priority and that he would have acted quickly had he been made aware of an issue.
In the text messages, the person identified by Smith as Bahr tells Garcetti’s unnamed former staffer, “He abused and harassed me the whole time he worked in the mayor’s office.”
“Kiss on the lips?” the other person answered. “Yes of course,” Bahr replied. “Tight.”
After being told, “you should reach out,” Bahr replied, “No.”
“I don’t get into the mix,” Bahr added. “And I don’t want to bring Eric down.”
Bahr, who now works as a spokesperson for Rep. Karen Bass’s mayoral campaign, said she doesn’t recall Jacobs ever kissing her on the lips.
When asked if she had been subjected to “cuts”, Bahr replied, “Not in a way that I would consider sexual harassment towards me. No.”
She added: “I remember hugging Rick. I don’t remember being made uncomfortable by those hugs.
Asked about the ‘rude’ statements she said Jacobs had made, she said: ‘I remember him making inappropriate jokes and comments in the office. But I don’t remember exactly what it was.
Regarding the reference to being ‘abused’ and ‘harassed’, Bahr said, “I think it’s important to note that it doesn’t say anything about it being abuse. or sexual harassment.”
She also added that “Rick was a very difficult person to work with at times. And I don’t think he always treated his employees with the respect or courtesy they deserved. But it doesn’t seem to me that I was talking about sexual abuse.
Bahr described herself as a “very junior employee of the mayor’s office, with no power or authority.”
She added: “City Hall could be a toxic and sometimes abusive work environment, especially for a junior employee like me. As a young woman starting her career, I was afraid of making myself the enemy of a powerful person. I plan to testify if and when my deposition is scheduled.
Bahr joined the mayor’s office in 2015 and held various positions, including speechwriter and assistant press secretary, before leaving in 2019, according to her LinkedIn page.
She was already considered a key witness for Garza’s legal team, which sought to take her deposition last year after Garcetti’s former communications director Emmerling testified, according to court documents.
Emmerling testified in June 2021 that after Garza filed the complaint, three people, including Bahr, confided in him that they had also been treated in the same way by Jacobs that Garza had alleged he had been treated with.
Emmerling also produced a group text message that included Bahr and other former Garcetti staffers discussing the allegations against Jacobs.
At one point in the exchange, Bahr appeared to suggest that it was common knowledge within the mayor’s office that Jacobs behaved inappropriately toward male employees.
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Bahr declined to comment last summer when asked about comments and text attributed to him.
Garcetti on Friday called Bahr a “very talented professional” whom he holds in high regard.
“I am deeply saddened to learn that Anna and others may have been treated in this way while working at City Hall,” Garcetti said in a statement. “I have always been committed to creating a safe and supportive environment for all of my team members and that will always be a top priority. I have never witnessed, and have never been made aware of, any of the behaviors described. If I had known about it, I absolutely would have acted to stop it.
Dozens of current and former employees testified in the Garza case. Text messages were also produced during these depositions, including messages sent by Alex Comisar, now Garcetti’s communications director.
In the exchange, Comisar wrote in a text to a former Garcetti staffer, “I got hit on by Rick again.” In later deposition testimony, Comisar said he did not recall writing the text and denied ever feeling harassed by Jacobs.